Djokovic v Thiem in Rome SF – Edit

This is the perfect match-up for Djokovic and Nadal fans. Ha ha. Djokovic gets a legitimate test on clay (against the guy who finally did beat the incomparable Rafa), but we still have the mystery of Djokovic’s game against the current French favorite. Note the use of “current” here to leave open the door that Djokovic could use to heighten his chances in Paris with a dominant win over Thiem and then Zverev in the final.

Here we are: the future vs. the present. This is Djokovic’s time, which makes 2017 Fedal so significant. This is not Murray’s time (he got there in the absence of Federer, Nadal TENNIS-FRA-ROLAND-GARROSand Djokovic, which I’ve pointed-out a million times. Andy is a pseudo #1. He was incredibly consistent and opportunistic last summer/fall, but his ascension wasn’t really certified by the powers-that-be).

Can Djokovic knock-off the two leaders of the next generation in today’s SF and tomorrow’s F? That is the second story-line, behind the one that revolves around the Serb finding that peak form he’ll need to win a major.

Djokovic celebrates his 30th birthday in two days, Monday, the day after the conclusion of the last warm-up to Roland Garros, which happens to be a Masters, so this would be a big win either way.

Looking at the Thiem SF that starts in 20 minutes, follow along on Twitter as we watch this match.

First, let’s go back to the QF vs Del Potro. This is a perfect match-up for Djokovic. The Serb’s pin-point BH can simply pin the ailing Argentinian. It’s not even a good watch. Del Potro has ONE weapon: his FH.

Compare this kind of one-trick pony to the likes of Federer who has a dangerous serve, BH and FH, net play mastery, solid defense (5 weapons). Or Nadal, who has the magic (intangible), along with a really balanced game, obviously, the under-appreciated net play, etc.

Thiem will certainly be a bigger challenge for the Serb.

Del Potro plays handicapped with that BH and the fact that he beat Dimitrov and Nishiouchi – not a good look for those lost boys (Grigor will find some rhythm on grass and HC, mind you).

Thiem’s ground stroke game should give Djokovic all he can handle. Both wings. Can’t pin the Austrian. I hope the Austrian can mix-in the volley to affect the Serb’s comfort-zone.

Watching Djokovic play Del Potro exposes the limits (style and longevity) of Djokovic’s game. Most players throwing the kitchen sink at Del Potro’s weak BH will come-in and finish at the net, since some of those weaker slices are like lush grapefruit at a glorious summer picnic. The Serb stays at the BL and finishes. That’s limited play. His accuracy and quickness will continue to diminish. He will have to rely on other weapons. Djokovic is still just a baseline tactician. Even Nadal is more and more coming to net.

We’ll see what happens here in this second SF. Djokovic is going to stay back and trade with Thiem. Let’s see how that plays-out.

Hopefully, both players are at their best.

Can’t you smell the French?

I could see this as a preview to a French SF, with Nadal in Murray’s half.
Just saying.

Edit:

That was cringe-worthy. I said a while ago that the smiling, “happy” Djokovic was not the one who would return to greatness. The “madman” is the Djokovic who can determine the outcome of matches with his aggressive, relentless defense-to-offense tennis. That’s what this was, but here’s the thing.

This match was troubling in that such a stark difference in tone manifested itself from the beginning. This includes his form, his level of play, but it’s the whole character change I’m talking about.

What in the hell was that? Is he really sending a message to Rafa?

The depth of his return (on the BL), the focus of his hitting, his serve. . . I don’t buy these drastic changes. Why play so angry now?

I love all of the talk of Roger doping. Ha ha. The only change we see in Roger is an improved BH, some better defense, perhaps.

But this kind of angry perfect tennis from out of the clouds is just bizarro. Good luck explaining that.

And good luck to Zverev. Angry Nole might eat him, his brother and his whole family.

The Madman is back. Oh where did he go in the first place?

I did follow the match on Twitter, identifying the flaws in the Thiem game: his predictability. If you go back and watch, it wasn’t until the 2nd game of the 2nd set, where Thiem started to add some variety, some loopy FH, more strategic slice. He needs to develop the DTL BH and FH. The cross-court weaponry is great but predictable. This kind of tennis plays right into Novak’s game. Predicting, court positioning, retrieving and hitting safe, defense-first ground-strokes. If he reads you well, the defense-first becomes defense-to-offense.

0 and 1 is an outlier. Unless we have just a bad match-up here. But then again we have the angelic/demonic Djokovic dynamic. Compare the Madrid SF to the Rome SF. Ha ha.

Did he get a new batch of gluten-free tortillas? Did he hire Agassi? Are he and Jelena in a fight? Why you mad, bro?

Indeed, the madman is the Djokovic we know and love. But seeing “it” scare the crap out of Thiem and the Rome tennis faithful was quite the pageantry of tennis “quality.”

10 comments

  1. This is painful to watch, young Thiem just can’t seem to find any rhythm and the Serb is waging psychological warfare 101, making hideous sounds and faces on his opponents unforced errors. Did a fairy on some joke of a blog call Nadal a bully? Zero class from the Serb here, and one of the reasons he will never have my sympathy.

      1. Yeah, just wow. I had very high hopes for this match, but it is what it is. 3 gifts in a row, perhaps Zverev can make a difference.

  2. This madman (should we start calling him that now? Lol) can only prey on the weak, a practically handicapped del Po who has no backhand anymore and a dumbfounded Thiem who may have felt the pressure/fatigue due to his perseverance in the last 3 weeks.

    As far as I am concerned the Thiem we saw play in the prior two tournaments was completely absent in this match, his confidence and lack of a serious game plan sealed his fate, granted Djokovic never let him settle into anything.

    Roland Garros is still Roland Garros, and should the Serb win in Rome, it still doesn’t mean much. A fit Rafa doesn’t fear the Djoker in a bo5 match anyways, and anything can happen at a GS.

    Now let us pray together to the tennis gods so they may bestow upon us a worthy final tomorrow.

    1. On a more serious note, the Djoker is going in the right direction. Is it too late? I questioned whether he can handle adversity. If he bagels and breadsticks everyone, well, enjoy the ride. But he will face some difficulty, and that’s when this will get interesting.

      Pretty dramatic change in form compared to Madrid or earlier for that matter.

      Something clicked?

  3. Yeah, wow. Also echo Caligula’s sentiments on novak’s on court demeanour. When it’s not going well for him we get the clowning and the sarcastic grinning – projecting that he doesn’t give a toss. And then when things turn in his favour suddenly he’s chest thumping and all that. Nadal’s over the top celebrations annoy me too but less so. It’s more straightforward. By exuding confidence he’s trying to cow his opponent. But he never gives himself excuses: he’s always earnest in his approach. Novak is a complicated character and not very likeable. But what a player when he’s in the groove. Thiem helped by playing crap but when djokovic is on form he gets consistent depth on his shots and that forced Thiem to drop back (something he’s prone to anyway) and cancelled the Austrian’s advantage in power. I don’t give zverev any chance this afternoon. The draw really opened up for him and I don’t think he’s really in the final on merit. He will be a great player but he’s not ready yet. But making predictions this year is foolish.

What say you?